Top Biden officials likely violated key federal law, watchdog says

Top Biden officials likely violated key federal law, watchdog says

  • April 26, 2024

Gabe Kaminsky, Washington Examiner

Top officials at the White House and Small Business Administration appear to have violated a federal law restricting government staffers from engaging in certain political activities, according to a watchdog group.

Internal emails obtained by Protect the Public’s Trust, a group investigating apparent conflicts of interest, show that both White House and SBA officials have frequently used official resources to communicate about former President Donald Trump’s campaign phrase “MAGA,” or Make America Great Again. But under the Hatch Act, federal executive branch employees are barred from “using their official authority or influence to interfere with or affect the result of an election,” the watchdog wrote in a Thursday complaint sent to the White House, the SBA’s inspector general, and the U.S. Office of Special Counsel, a federal investigative and prosecutorial agency.

“This continual apparent disregard of the Hatch Act shows why it’s needed in the first place,” said director Michael Chamberlain of Protect the Public’s Trust, a group that previously argued White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre skirted the Hatch Act, leading to the Office of Special Counsel concluding in June 2023 that she did violate it.

“American citizens don’t pay their public servants to wage a permanent political campaign while disparaging their opponents,” said Chamberlain, who worked in the Department of Education under Trump.

The Hatch Act, which went into effect in 1939, aims to ensure taxpayer-backed programs are nonpartisan and not tools for the government to engage in political coercion. It has been routinely violated in prior administrations, including under Trump, by at least 13 officials.

In the complaint, Chamberlain’s group cited how federal employees may not use their “email account or social media to distribute, send, or forward content that advocates for or against a partisan political party, candidate for partisan political office, or partisan political group.” The complaint cited, for instance, an email obtained by Protect the Public’s Trust showing White House Senior Communications Assistant Brianna Stonick in January 2023 emailing White House colleagues with the subject line, “Talking Points: House Republican MAGA Economic Plan.”

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